“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
George Whitefield, in the 1700s said, “Sanctification is not the cause, it is the effect of our acceptance with God” (Select Sermons of George Whitefield).
(This morning) we are going to examine and be thinking about the life that we are to live together as God’s New Covenant people. What should our lives look like? What should be the effect in our lives of being accepted by God? What should mark us as a church? If we are those who have embraced the gospel, how should that gospel shape us?
Paul laid out and explained the power and sufficiency and worth of Christ at the beginning of this letter. We spent weeks examining the glories of the gospel. Paul is now, in chapter 3, showing us how this gospel message is intended to move and shape the people of God in this world as we await His glorious appearing.
The Word of Christ, the gospel, is powerful and will have an effect upon the people of God. When the Word of Christ dwells richly among a people that people cannot remain as they were.
2 Points from the Larger Context:
We have entered the portion of the letter where Paul is applying the gospel to our lives and I want to make two points, as we begin, that grow out of this larger section. Then we will dive into verse 16.
- The Christian Life is Relational:
The first point I’d like to note, is a point Paul Tripp noticed in the letter to the Philippians. Paul Tripp noticed in the letter to the Philippians that when the apostle Paul thinks about the life that is lived in response to the gospel he has something particular in mind. When Paul thinks about the life that grows out of the gospel he immediately thinks about relationships. He thinks of how we interact and treat one another.
Well, it is just the same here in Colossians. It is significant that as the apostle Paul applies how the gospel should shape each of us as new creatures in Christ, he immediately thinks in terms of the church together, the assembly of believers, the Body of Christ. The gospel certainly comes to us as individuals and must be personally embraced, but the gospel changes how we think about ourselves. We are brought into a Body.
Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.”
You have been called personally into peace with God through Jesus, but you have been called with others into peace with God. That vertical peace should rule in each of our hearts, as we come together as a body. I have peace with God and you have peace with God – our source of life is the same. And If that peace is ruling in our hearts we will have peace with each other. We are one Body.
And because we are a body my life is no longer about me and my happiness and my goals and my interests. I have been called out of and freed from that egocentric life where I was the center of the universe and all the planets and stars revolved around me. I have been freed from that chaos and dysfunction, into a new universe where Christ in the center. We all revolve around Him. Christ has called each of us individually into His Universe, His kingdom, His Body.
If we are in Christ’s kingdom by faith, we have been called into new life. We’ve been declared righteous before God, forgiven, welcomed, adopted, loved by God and we have been given the very Spirit of Christ who dwells in us leading us toward holiness.
If we are that people, we are to put on, then as God chosen ones, holy and beloved, the garment of godliness that Christ purchased for us. We are to express the life that is ours by the Spirit as those loved by God.
But catch this point: Godliness, holiness, sanctification is not best pursued or expressed in a monastery (isolation), away from the mess of others. A monastery is tempting because we think that if I could just get away from other people, then I could pursue godliness. A monastery is attractive because we are deceived about our problem.
It is true that when we get away from other messy people we can hide our own remaining sin a lot more easily.
I am not an irritable person when people leave me alone. I am not a sensitive person when others don’t point out my weakness and sin.
It is tempting to run away from other people but Paul calls us, who are new creatures, in Colossians 3:12 and following to, “Put on … compassionate hearts, kindness, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive. And above all these put on love…” All these qualities that are to be ours and increasing, must be practiced and put on in relationship with others. If you are a new creature in Christ you are to put on, that is express that new life, here, in the body.
We are not called into a personal relationship with Jesus as if all that means is Jesus and me are going to take our ball and go home.
You have been called into the community of believers by God’s design.
The Body of Christ is Diverse by Design:
Second point drawn from the larger context here, it is important to note that Paul has said in verse 11,
“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”
In Acts 10 a radical change happened in the history of redemption. Every nation and tongue and people were welcomed into one body. The Church is designed to be diverse. And with such diversity we are bound to have differences and tensions. But that is precisely how God designed it… for our good.
As much as I’d like to deny it, you are not my problem. In fact, you and I have been placed together by Divine appointment and by design – God has not gathered us based on musical preferences or age or race or favorite color or favorite movie. He has drawn us from the nations, uniting us around Christ. Even with our cultural differences and generational differences and personality differences and even with our unique remaining sinful tendencies, God designed the church to be the place where I am freed from focusing on myself and placed among others in whom Christ lives and where we are together being shaped into His image.
I was thinking this week that I have some very close relationships with Christians who are very diverse. Some 10 years my junior and yet I see in them a wisdom beyond their years because they love Christ.
I have dear brothers and sisters in Christ my own age, some 10 years my senior, some twenty, thirty and even some almost forty years my senior. And what binds me to each of these people is not age, favorite sports teams or favorite foods or similar professions or senses of humor or level of education. It is not our similar life experiences that draws me to them.
When I was a corrections officer I was close to brothers in Christ who were ex-inmates and some current inmates. I have close relationships with people who I would never have an earthly reason to spend time with – almost no shared interests at all – and yet I consider some of these dear saints to be my closest friends in the world.
Why? Because they love Christ … and I know that the Word of Christ dwells richly among them. When I am with them I know I will be reminded of God and His glorious work on my behalf. I trust them with my current struggle because I know that they understand the gospel of grace.
I know also that they will be excited and encouraged by what excites and encourages me: Christ and His gospel. I know that they will be sensitive to and hear and submit to the Word. I know that they will be quick to repent. I know that they will be bold to call me back when I am discouraged or tempted to sin.
In all of these people, what I cherish and love and am attracted to is Christ in them.
- The Christian Life is Relational – we are a Body.
- The Body of Christ is Diverse by design.
The Word of Christ: Dwelling in you Richly
Let’s go to our text with that in mind.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you (that is “you all,” the Body of Christ, you the community of new creatures from every nation) richly…”
What does it mean to let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly?
Here are some helpful attempts by commentators to get at it: “take up permanent residence among” or “find a home with.” The word of Christ, the gospel, should be at home (here) in the local church. It should not simply visit us once in a while; it should never depart from us. The word of Christ should dwell among us richly. This is the home of the Word of Christ.
One has said, “…it should be constantly at the center of the communities activities and worship.” The word of Christ should dwell richly in us such that it is the sun around which everything here revolves. The word of Christ must be at the center of everything that takes place among us.
Douglas Moo has said that this word richly “suggests that this constant reference to the word of Christ should not be superficial or passing but that it should be a deep and penetrating contemplation that enables the message to have transforming power in the life of the community.”
The Word of Christ should not skim the surface of the community of faith, but penetrate and transform every part of it. And the Word about Christ is not just the word of salvation for the lost out there. It is that. But it is also the Word that transforms the people of God from one degree of glory to another.
Paul is calling each of us to let the word of Christ fill our hearts and minds, to be at the center of our lives as individually, yes, but expressed in our life together.
Understanding, Appreciation, and Articulation
If the word of Christ is to dwell among us richly, than it is of crucial importance that we know what the Word of Christ is. Do you know the Word of Christ? If someone asked you, could you explain the hope that you have in Christ? Can you explain the gospel? Could you show me from the Scriptures?
It should be our desire to always be growing in our understanding of and appreciation of and articulation of the word of Christ.
“We must meditate. These grapes will yield no wine until we tread upon them. These olives must be put under the wheel, and pressed again and again, that the oil may flow therefrom.” Taken from the book Council for Christian Workers by Charles Spurgeon 1834-1892.
Do you meditate upon the Word of Christ?
“I find it easier to go six miles to hear a sermon than to spend one quarter of an hour in meditating and praying over it in secret after I come home.” Philip Henry, 1631-1696. Taken from the book Light at Evening Time.
Do we know the gospel and do we meditate on it, does it dwell richly among us in the local church?
The Word of Christ: a bulwark never failing
Now, if the Word of Christ dwells richly among us, does that mean we will be free of conflict and trouble?
No. Especially if we are a community where the harvest is being reaped. If we are a community of believers, as we should long to be, where people are being gathering into the Body of Christ, we will always have babes among us.
But, even those who have walked many years with Christ will always have much in them that needs refining.
Yes, even when the Word of Christ dwells richly among the saints, that community of believers will continue to struggle with every manner of difficulties.
This is why Paul says, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” – Colossians 3:13.
But when the Word of Christ dwells in us richly we will be the kind of people who have the fiber to resist tearing apart, the kind of people whose roots are so deeply anchored that the storms and droughts will not destroy us. When the Word of Christ dwells richly among a people they have an anchor that holds them together that is greater than any of their sin.
And so we must learn and meditate on the Word of Christ. It must be the center of our individual lives and our lives together.
Teaching and Admonishing One Another in All Wisdom
So, what does the community of faith, which has the Word of Christ dwelling in them richly, look like?
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…”
This is beautiful. The successful businessman, the ex inmate, the missionary, the stay at home mother and wife, the old, the young – each have two roles to play here. The words “One another” demand that the teaching and admonishing do not happen in one direction only. Each person who is in the body where the Word of Christ dwells richly will both teach and be taught, will both admonish and be admonished. Always giving and receiving.
In the community where the Word of Christ is dwelling richly the successful businessman is to receive the Christ-centered admonition and teaching of the ex-inmate with thankfulness.
Each one here is in need of growth and help and it is in the Body of Christ, where the Word of Christ dwells richly, where that help is found.
“Let us seek friends who will stir us up about our prayers, our Bible reading, and our employment of time, about our souls, our salvation, and a world to come. Who can tell the good that a friend’s word in season may do, or the harm that it may stop?” Taken from the book Holiness by JC Ryle 1877.
A Wise People:
I’d like you to notice the words in verse 16. We are to teach and admonish one another “in all wisdom.”
There is a great call here to step toward one another with care and gentleness, in all wisdom.
If the Word of Christ does not dwell richly in you, you will neither give nor receive health or help. If the word of Christ is not cherished by you, you will resent the input of others in your life … and you will either not care to pursue the progress and joy of the faith of the saints, or you will pursue them, but not for their progress and joy in the faith, you will pursue them with a stick to beat them … rather than with perfect provision of Christ.
When the Word of Christ dwells among a people richly, they desire, not to point out the faults of others, but to restore and bring health and joy and healing. We teach (positively present Christian truths), we teach in humility and gentleness. We admonish (warn firmly), we admonish when a brother or sister is in danger of loosing sight of Christ – not to put them in their place, but to restore them to Christ though repentance and faith.
We will not be moving toward one another in humility, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, if the Word of Christ does not dwell richly here. We will be beating and berating one another in all foolishness and trying to move as far as we can away from one another.
No, we are called to be a wise people. And we will becomes that wise people as the Word of Christ takes hold of each of us and dwells richly in us.
So when the Word of Christ dwells in us all richly we will teach and admonish one another in all wisdom.
A Call to Be Mastered by the Gospel:
Here we have a call to each one of us to be gospel-saturated people. Yes, for your own souls sake, but also for mine, and for the rest of this body. We need one another. I need you to be reading your bible. I need you to know the gospel. I need you to love the gospel so that you will be equipped and eager, with all wisdom, to build me up in the faith and so that you will be eager to be built up in the faith by the wise words of others.
I was reminded this week that there is a sense in which we need to master the Word of God. We need to be such good students of the Word of Christ that we know it and can articulate it. It should be our constant pursuit to have a mastery of the truths of God’s Word. But that is not the end goal. The end is to be mastered by the Word of Christ.
- The Christian Life is Relational
- The Body of Christ is Diverse by Design
- We are each called to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly…
- So that we can build up the Body of Christ, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.
Andrew “Andy” Murray was born and raised in New Hampshire. His father, pastor Loren Murray, served Fellowship Bible Church in Chester, NH. At six years of age Andy trusted in Jesus Christ and was baptized. He was brought up “acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” At the age of 12 his father was in a fatal car accident. Reflecting on the loss of his dad Andy writes; “I see now the wise and loving hand of Christ in my life, as He used this event to, shape, mold and press me toward Himself. It was this event that sparked in me an earnest desire to know God from His Word. By His grace, this desire has continued to grow.” Andy met his wife, Elizabeth, at Philadelphia Biblical University (now Cairn University). They have four wonderful boys. Visit Windham Bible Chapel.